The 2023 World Cup Downhill season has seen some big changes as the new broadcasters and race organisers under the umbrella of Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) have shaken up both the race formats and the coverage. With three races completed and with the second half of the season upon us, we have rounded up the publicly available viewing numbers and spent far too long making spreadsheets and graphs to see if the changes have made an impact on who is watching the top-level of downhill racing this season.
What Viewing Figures Did We Use?
Just as in previous years with Red Bull, the viewing figures on platforms outside of YouTube are not made publicly available so it is important to note that the finals broadcasts placed behind the paywall in 2023 are not being compared with the finals shown for free on Red Bull TV in the past. We do however have a pretty good picture based on the freely available coverage posted on YouTube, including Junior final and Elite Semi-Finals broadcasts.
For our 2023 coverage numbers, we have taken a closer look at the publicly available content being posted under the UCI Mountain Bike World Series
, GMBN Racing
YouTube channels. In our later comparisons, we have used the Red Bull Bike
channel alongside the UCI as the official publishers of content in previous seasons. *All figures were collected on August 19*
A Quick Look at the 2023 Viewing Figures So Far
Before we get into any comparisons of past seasons it is important to lay out the landscape of the publicly available viewing numbers for the opening three rounds of the 2023 downhill race season. For these rounds, we saw the largest pull of views from the UCI Mountain Bike World Series, GMBN Racing, UCI and Eurosport channels at Lenzerheide, the season opener. The total at round one reached 699,107 views. Despite not quite reaching this number again the following two rounds were pretty consistent, with Leogang content totalling 697,739 and Val Di Sole stacking up 698,813 views.
The bulk of the views across the three rounds came from the Elite Men's highlights as this pulled in nearly 200,000 more views than the next closest type of video with a total viewership across the four official channels of 770,814. The Elite semi-finals broadcast would be the second highest ranked content with the Junior finals another 270,000 back in third. The Elite women's highlights would fall far below the men's at only 194,899 views.
One interesting point to note is the subscriber numbers of the official content providers. Both the Eurosport and UCI channels sit at over 500,000 subs but they pull in a minority share of the views with the Eurosport channel struggling to pull in more than 3,000 views for each video. The World Series and GMBN Racing channels have around 100,000 and 47,000 subs respectively but they pull in a far greater audience with both channels finding similar total viewing numbers across the three rounds. Although the GMBN Racing channel posted slightly fewer videos than the World Series YouTube channel resulting in a higher average view count.
Talking Points:Viewing Figure Totals are Up in 2023
It's fair to say that coming into this year there was a decent amount of doom and gloom in comment sections and forums with a decent number of people saying they would not be watching any racing this year. While the changes in 2023 may have stopped some people from tuning in, the view totals from YouTube tell a slightly different story - so far this year the total number of views across all official channels is higher than the output from Red Bull. Looking in at race highlight views the 2022 Red Bull coverage pulled in 751,429 viewers while the 2023 coverage of the same races reached an audience of 889,275.
While the overall totals are definitely higher in 2023 I would say it is nothing to be super excited about, as the Red Bull channel alone was pulling in 718,468 of those viewers in 2022 while the biggest part of the 2023 total is 588,171 from GMBN Racing. The 2023 coverage seems to have gone for a plan that sees mostly the same content uploaded across four different sources (UCI MTB World Series, GMBN Racing, Eurosport and UCI Youtube channels) instead of the two channels (Red Bull Bike and UCI YouTube channels) in past seasons. A system that seems to be working as the videos are reaching a higher number of eyeballs than the approach by Red Bull.
Without the viewing pull of the newly launched GMBN Racing channel then the number for the 2023 coverage would be pretty dire with the number for Winning Runs and Course Preview videos seeing a particularly harsh time this season as these are only posted on the World Series channel (in terms of official content providers). The winning run and course previews have seen video view numbers of around 200,000 in 2022 for Winning Runs fall to sub-80,000 views in 2023. Since 2017 only three times did views for a winning run at Lenzerheide, Val Di Sole or Leogang fall below 100,000 views and the lowest of these was still around 97,000. The GoPro Bike channel has also featured some winning run POVs although the only video to pull in a larger audience than the World Series channel was Jackson Goldstone's run from Val Di Sole reaching around 139,000 views at the time of writing. To compare this to 2022 the lowest winning run video from Red Bull for these races was 181,046.
The Broad Reach of Eurosport Doesn't Seem to be Interested in Downhill
One of the PR selling points of the new setup was the broad appeal of WBD and its Eurosport broadcasting arm, and while because the figures are kept secret we can't talk about the Dicovery+ or GCN+ numbers, the YouTube views from Eurosport are pretty appalling.
Totalling over 530,000 subs the Eurosport channel has a massive reach but nobody who is subscribed to the channel seems to want to watch downhill racing with the peak video view number reaching only 3,340. Perhaps what is worst about Eurosprt's YouTube coverage is they have only decided to publish one video showcasing women's highlights from the Leogang round of this year's World Cups (this video totalled 750 views). The elite men saw highlights posted to this channel for Leogang and Val Di Sole and the Juniors were given no coverage on this channel.
It's Great to Have Televised Junior Racing but the Audience is Falling Already
The one change for the 2023 season that has been met with almost complete positivity has been the addition of more junior coverage and a live broadcast for finals. Increased Junior racing coverage is something that is long overdue but interestingly it currently sits way below the elite semi-final in terms of viewership on YouTube. The elite semi-finals have pulled in 574,432 viewers so far this year with a big drop to 304,076 views for junior racing. The numbers get even worse when you look at highlights with the peak total for junior racing for a single round hitting 12,003 views for Leogang. The peaks for elite men sit at 281,207 and the women at 79,875. At least from the figures so far this year not many people seem interested in catching the highlights for junior racing with a number far smaller than the viewership for the live finals broadcast.
It is worth pointing out here as well that so far after three races with the new broadcaster the only highlights coverage that has pulled more viewers at round three compared to round one is the elite men, both the women's and junior coverage have lower figures for the third 2023 race.